For over 50 years, a constant staple of mod fashion has been the Harrington jacket.
Lightweight and versatile, a Harrington is unmistakable. Knitted cuffs and hem, button flap pockets, zipped front leading to a double-buttoned collar and of course, the famous tartan interior lining, make it easy to spot a Harrington in seconds.
The Harrington had been worn for around 30 years before it became a mod classic. So where did this iconic piece of clothing come from?
Well, it all started with a golf swing.
In 1930s Manchester, golfers were sick of getting wet while on the course. The Miller Brothers of clothing company Baracuta began to make rain macs for golfers that were breathable, waterproof and long. Too long.
As golfers were making their swings, the coat began to get in the way. So, like all great inventions, necessity paved the way to making something great. The need for more flexibility led to what was then called the G9 being trimmed down so it only reached the waist.
Grenfell of Burnley also stakes a claim in the birth of the Harrington. In the same decade, they released their own version of the golfing jacket in a similar style to the Baracuta model.
With these two brands producing these jackets, the Harrington jacket as we know it had been born.
In 1938 John Miller himself asked Lord Lovat of the clan Fraser if he could use their tartan design, and since that day, Harringtons have carried the famous lining.
So how did a golfing jacket become world-famous, and become the jacket of choice for mods, skinheads and punks of the 1960s?
It was in the mid-1950s that the Harrington hit the mainstream, and there are two people who were huge influences on its way there.
The Harrington was so popular with the mods as it had attitude. It carried an air of rebellion, and this can be traced back to James Dean. In his 1955 film ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, Dean wore a red Harrington jacket alongside turned up jeans, a smoking cigarette in between his fingers and a defiant and unruly stare into the camera.
He looked unmistakably cool, and everyone who watched the film wanted to get one of the golfer jackets (as they were known then) that he wore.
Two years later in another film, one of the most popular icons of the 20th century was seen wearing a Baracuta G9. This time it was Elvis Presley in the film King Creole. He wore a cream coloured jacket unzipped, which showcased the tartan lining.
The Harrington was now well known as something worn by the leading figures in entertainment, but it still was only known as the golfer.
This was until 1964, and the TV show Peyton Place. A cool, good looking actor named Ryan O’Neal played a character who became famous for wearing a G9. The character`s name? Rodney Harrington.
The character wore the jacket so much, they took on his name, and they are still known by it over 50 years later.
Alongside Dean and Presley, other keen wearers of Harrington jackets were Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, who were all pictured on many occasions sporting the iconic style of the G9.
So, the Harrington had found its name and found its way to the forefront of the youth of America’s fashion scene, next up was to take over the world.
In the 1960s, the mods of the UK had begun to notice the Harrington. From the rebellious connotations to the stylish characteristics of the jacket, it was a piece of clothing that almost seemed tailor-made for them.
Combined with stonewash denim or a pair of 501s, the Harrington looked effortlessly cool, and soon became a popular choice for not just mods, but also skinheads and punks. When legends of the music and mod scene such as Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and the Modfather himself Paul Weller were seen wearing one, the status of the Harrington in mod folklore was cemented.
Clapton especially changed his look completely in the mid-60s, cutting his hair and sporting a Harrington for a TV appearance in 1964 that would have done nothing to slow down the rapid rise of the jacket.
In the 60s, as mods moved from sharp suits to a more casual look, the Harrington became a key component, often being worn with a Fred Perry or Ben Sherman polo shirt underneath, turned up jeans and a pair of Doc Martens , monkey boots.or Desert Boots
Into the 70s, and as the mod culture slowed down slightly, the Harrington remained popular as a stylish choice for any setting. Then came the mod revival following the birth of 2-tone records in 1979 and the emergence of bands such as The Specials and Madness on the music scene.
With another rise to the top for ska music and the mod scene, the Harrington rose in popularity again, and it has never gone out of fashion since.
From the punks in the 1970s to the Britpop bands in the 90s, the Harrington has been synonymous with musicians and film stars since the days of James Dean playing the Rebel. Damon Albarn of Blur was often seen wearing a Harrington, as were the Gallagher brothers.
By this time the Harrington wasn’t just designed by Baracuta and Grenfell. The big hitters of the fashion industry were now getting in on the action. Lacoste, Fred Perry and Ralph Lauren all produce their own version of the original, and the style doesn’t alter much from its roots.
Into the 21st century, you still don’t have to go far to see a Harrington. The 2006 film ‘This is England’ paid homage to modernist and skinhead culture and contained many characters in the iconic jacket. And even BBC comedies get in on the act, with the title character from Gavin and Stacey sporting a blue Harrington throughout the show.
From its origin in the 1930s, to now the Harrington has always been chosen as a fashionable and functional piece of clothing.
Lightweight, versatile and packed full of attitude, the Harrington has become more than just a fashion choice. It is an icon of British fashion. An item that began on a rainy golf course in Manchester, and ended up being worn by the biggest rock stars the world has ever produced.
So it shows that Mods, Rockers, Punks and Skins have proved that this is a classic, timeless piece of clothing which transcends all ages, subcultures and genders. Let’s hope it keeps rockin for another 60 more!